Optimizing Optimism [with Kevin Hart]
How we use time, our state of mind and the force field
Without a doubt, the world can seem a dark place. But it can also seem an ever-glowing utopia.
We’re well aware that whether or not our glass is half-full or half-empty depends wholly on our perspective. Some people find solace in their brooding, some can’t help but sulk anyway, others yet pretend to be happy or can’t help but get lost in their own joy for life.
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Often, we may try to transition from one state to another, usually towards the positive direction, and along the way, we pick up certain techniques that help anchor us in the desired state. Living in the present moment, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, fishing, sports — it’s a subjective enterprise.
So it’s generally accepted that a positive state of mind is the ideal interface through which we want to interact with reality, the way to avoid self-inflicted misery and, ultimately, an unsatisfying end. While professional brooders and nihilists may brand the positively-charged minds with a stamp of naivety, even ignorant bliss seems to sometimes win out over informed anguish in today’s world.
Because, in today’s world, it seems difficult to maintain a blend of both. To maintain a normative awareness of all the bad — the conflicts, the death tolls, the corporate exploitation of peoples and ecosystems, modern slavery and human trafficking, a growing lack of privacy and pilling moral social fabric, political and financial corruption, class divisions and propaganda, racial and gender-based inequality, surmounting debt and intellectual decay. In these waters, it’s easy to get lost in the waves of defeatism and adopt a despondent outlook. What seems to be more difficult, however, is to stay afloat the seemingly elusive tides of optimism.
In reality, it doesn’t involve closing one's eyes to the headlines, and it doesn’t require a privileged position from which one may comfortably look down at the world — and there’s just something less trendy about putting a gleaming spin on something in a room full of sullen faces. Though, the point remains: it’s doable. It’s more than doable.
“I try to put out the light of positive because whoever’s out there, I don’t know what it could do for someone else”
In case you didn’t catch his positivity crusade on Joe Rogan’s experience, Kevin Hart spun his yarn on how he remains positive all the time. His underlying philosophy, unpacked, seems to start with the concept of time, and how we spend it.
“What do you have going on that you have the time to just simply be that negative in this world? … I don’t think people understand how valuable they can be if they used their time correctly”
Time, like optimism, is subjective by nature. And our perspective of reality all depends on how we spend our time. Ergo, how we spend our time is inherently tied to how we feel about the world. It’s no complicated formula.
If we’re nose-deep in clickbait throughout the day, if we’re hanging onto the emerging details of every travesty that unfolds around the world, if we’re over-indulging on murder-themed entertainment from true crime to bloody fiction or caught up in over-sensationalized celebrity gossip, then it should come as no surprise to see our perspective of reality shrouded in a veil of melancholic darkness, dramatized conflict and bleak fatalism.
This isn’t to say that we should hide from the news or avoid entertainment as a whole — rather, it should be so that we do not center our perceptual reality solely around these parts. For the time we devote to the darkness, one could say, we should devote equal parts to the light.
Our environment shapes us. All that we consume — visually, socially, nutritionally — this has an influence on us. Should we decide to eat horribly, well, we can’t expect anything other than to feel horrible. Should we keep poor company, live in a cluttered home, spend our time uselessly — we can’t expect to feel content with ourselves.
State of Mind
“I find a light in every dark tunnel. I will find a goddamn light man. I hear it all — when I tell you the weight on my back is so heavy with all the stuff I deal with, and I’m fine. The reason that I’m fine is because I’m genuinely happy. I’m happy. And I’m not happy just because of the success — the success acts as a bonus. I’m happy because I truly know the definition and the feeling that comes with the happiness. I truly know it. I felt it.”
Sure, it’s easy to not be so negative if you’re Kevin Hart — but optimism is a subjective phenomenon, usually regardless of who you are. Ask anyone if their happiness stems solely from their success, however, and we may get a counter-intuitive answer — no. Rather, it’s just a state of mind, separate from the success of the individual.
In a way, optimism invites success. To be optimistic about an opportunity, for instance, is to keep an eye out for it, expecting it around every corner. To be pessimistic about circumstances is to maneuver through life with low expectations, a defeated outlook that results in cul-de-sacs of progress and meager casts towards achievement, to begin with.
In other words, it’s oftentimes much more beneficial to have our heads in the clouds because it elevates us. And while it exposes us to a higher fall — it simultaneously acclimates us to high altitude living and stratospheric standards.
“That’s my world. So everything else from the outside that comes in, you’re throwing shit at a bubble that can’t be popped. It’s a forcefield around me. It’s a forcefield around me because what matters, what really matters, loves me whole-heartedly. And when you have that, when you understand that, you’re unbreakable.”
Our state of mind ought to be considered a sanctum, our mental serenity, and peace of mind — a temple. It’s susceptible to influence, external and internal. Self-doubt can drag our optimistic outlook through the muddiest of trails. Misfortune can shatter our hopeful buoyancy. And so we must envision our aplomb and our sanguinity as not only a byproduct of our healthy mind but also a shield against the storms of despair or tribulations that come naturally through life.
It’s really rather simple. In Kevin’s words:
“So if you don’t add to that force field, if you don’t make my force field stronger, you don’t get time from me.”
So we may resign ourselves to the firm belief that the world really is a dark place. Such may be the style we choose to adopt — a defeatist or nihilistic vantage point from the gutters of humankind, critical and pragmatic. Such a way of seeing the world is entirely permissible, though it can’t come as a surprise to be considered a buzzkill and should also be regarded as a missed chance to reflect some light to those around us.
Perhaps it’s a subconscious call for attention — to see the world in the darkest of all possible viewpoints, this is to play a victim of surrounding misfortunes rather than a champion of surrounding fortunes. It’s easy to get down on ourselves, to mope and sulk. But to pick oneself up after every failed opportunity, to remain a beacon in the encompassing darkness — that’s the true challenge that’s subsequently rewarded countless times over.
Maybe the question of which interface we ought to adopt isn’t important, maybe we should be asking, instead, why it’s so hard to stay positive, to begin with. It’s becoming increasingly trendy, with the likes of Steven Pinker and Hans Rosling, though it’s still flowing against the grain of collective social thought.
Objectively speaking, it should be easy to remain wholly positive about the state of the world, at least from the comfortable apex of human civilization that most of us who are reading this find ourselves in. We have internet access, a roof over our heads, free time to meander and ponder the words of obscure voices on the internet. Who are we to complain? One can argue, quite effectively, that the world is indeed much more of a utopia than it had been 500 years ago, 100 years ago, 20 years ago.
Or, maybe, it’s not all up to us. For the most part, we may not have any control over how we feel — some people are simply in one group and others in the other group. What would we say then? In such a situation, any step towards our ideal state of mind should be appreciated — progress, in other words, is key. Or, in the closing words of Kevin Hart:
“Today’s another day, it’s a morning, let’s all be better than we were yesterday”